USOC: Uproar over uniforms 'nonsense'

Updated July 16, 2012 at 12:08 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 13 (UPI) -- The U.S. Olympic Committee called an uproar over the U.S. team's China-made ceremonial uniforms "nonsense" while a top U.S. lawmaker said they should be burned.

"All this talk about Olympic uniforms made in China is nonsense," USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said on Twitter after Democratic and Republican lawmakers from both congressional houses, who normally find little in common, expressed outrage the opening-ceremony uniforms, designed by Ralph Lauren, were made in China.

The lawmakers said the U.S. textile industry was struggling economically and many U.S. workers were desperate for jobs.

"I am so upset. I think the Olympic Committee should be ashamed of themselves. I think they should be embarrassed," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday after ABC News reported the uniforms' origin.

"I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them, and start all over again," Reid said in a news conference otherwise about taxes.

"If they have to wear nothing but a singlet that says 'USA' on it, painted by hand, that's what they should wear," he said, referring to a sleeveless athletic jersey, especially a loose-fitting top worn by runners.

"We have people in America, in the textile industry, who are desperate for jobs. And I think what the Olympic Committee [has] done is absolutely wrong," Reid said.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters, "You'd think they'd know better."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Americans take pride in their Olympians, who "represent the very best" of the United States -- "and they should be wearing uniforms made in America."

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sent separate letters to USOC Chairman Larry Probst complaining about the China-made uniforms.

"There is no compelling reason why all of the uniforms cannot be made here on U.S. soil at the same price, at better quality," Gillibrand wrote.

The Olympic committee could make the uniforms at a U.S. plant such as one in Cleveland run by Hugo Boss, wrote Brown, whose Ohio residence is 20 miles west of Cleveland.

Hugo Boss AG is a German company.

Sandusky said in a statement: "Unlike most Olympic teams around the world, the U.S. Olympic team is privately funded and we're grateful for the support of our sponsors.

"We're proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company, and excited to watch America's finest athletes compete at the upcoming Games in London," his statement said.

In his Twitter messages, Sandusky added: "Polo RL is an American company that supports American athletes. That means that they financially support our team. An American company that supports American athletes."

He said Ralph Lauren Corp. is not just the designer of the opening ceremony gear -- it's a team sponsor.

Ralph Lauren and his company had no immediate comment.

Ralph Lauren also designed the Olympic and Paralympic closing-ceremony uniforms, as well as casual clothes athletes and team officials are to wear around the Olympic Village.

Nike Inc. -- which contracts with factories in countries such as China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico -- made many U.S. team competition uniforms.

The Beaverton, Ore., company did not say where its uniforms for the U.S. Olympic team were made.

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games are to take place in London July 27 to Aug. 12, followed by the Paralympic Games Aug. 29 to Sept. 9.

Ralph Lauren-designed uniforms for the U.S. Olympic team in the 2008 Summer Games were also made in China.

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